Graphics cards. Hands up who understands the naming policies?
You at the back, put that hand down.
If there's one subject we've seen come up again and again over the last year, it's that of choosing the right graphics card. They come in all shapes and sizes and go from budget models all the way up to crazy cards which cost the same as an entire laptop.
Picking the right card for your budget isn't easy when they all have obtuse code numbers and every single one is marketed as being THE MOST POWERFUL CARD EVER.
As HitFilm likes to have a decent GPU, I sat down with our resident tech expert Ady and asked him to explain to me the various graphics card naming policies, in an attempt to try to unravel them and make it easier for you guys when you’re looking to get the best performance from HitFilm.
There are two big manufacturers of graphics cards – AMD and NVIDIA. Branded versions of their cards are sold by a myriad of other companies who will sometimes bundle them in with games and other goodies, so it's worth shopping around for a good deal even once you know what model you want.
There's also Intel's HD 3000 and HD 4000 which are integrated cards included with their most recent processors. Integrated cards are usually bad news but the HD 3000 is surprisingly capable and we released an update for HitFilm last year specifically to make it compatible with HD 3000-equipped computers.
Starting with AMD cards, you can figure out how good a card is by splitting the model number into two sections.
The first number tells you which series it is. That means the higher the number, the newer the card is.
To get good performance from HitFilm, not to mention modern games, you want to go for a 5 series or newer card. At the time of writing this article the newest is series 7.
The last 3 numbers tell you how powerful the card is within that particular series. So a 6970 is more powerful than a 6950, for example.
You want that number to be 600 or more:
• 600-790 denotes a ‘mainstream’ card.
• 800-990 are deemed 'enthusiast' cards.
To summarise, you want a 5 series or newer, and a power rating of 600 or higher. So the AMD HD 5750 will run HitFilm nicely, while the AMD HD 7990 will be entirely awesome.
Moving on to NVIDIA cards. The good thing here is that they’ve gone for the same naming system as AMD—-oh, no, sorry, my mistake, they haven’t. They’ve done something completely different. Of course they have, bless them.
So, there’s a few things to look out for here. Firstly, look for the letters GTS or GTX in the name. GTS cards are designed for gaming and GTX cards are NVIDIA’s high end cards, so both are great for HitFilm. If you don’t see those letters, it’s probably a good idea to move along quietly.
After that you’ll find 3 numbers. The first number represents the series, just like AMD’s cards. So the higher the number, the newer the card. You want to make sure you’re getting a 2 series or newer card.
The last 2 numbers represent the power of the card, with higher numbers meaning more grunt. Therefore the GTX 590 is more powerful than the GTX 560.
A note on mobile
In case the above was clarifying things a little too effectively, let's throw in a last-minute caveat. If you see the letter 'M' included as part of the model name, be aware that you're looking at the mobile version of the graphics card. These are special versions created for use in laptops.
The 'M' version of cards can be surprisingly different. Due to the compromises made to keep heat and size compatible with the laptop's small form factor, 'M' cards are often far less powerful than their similarly-named desktop counterparts. Don't assume the same power and ability from an 'M' card, even if it has exactly the same model number as a non-'M' card.
Hopefully this has helped clarify the naming policies of the GPU manufacturers somewhat. Or it might have just given you a headache. Either way, let us know if you've got any questions.